Carl Edwards edged Juan Pablo Montoya to claim his second pole position of the season in qualifying for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond. The Roush Fenway driver benefited from a later draw than his Earnhardt Ganassi rival, who had been the second one out on the track to complete his qualifying lap.
Edwards, who had been fastest in the final practice, was the 29th car out and on his second flying lap he improved on Montoya's benchmark by setting a time of 21.133 seconds, at an average speed of 127.762mph.
"I noticed how fast Juan was down through [Turns] 3 and 4 and just didn't think we'd go that fast," Edwards said after claiming his sixth career pole. "I told [crew chief] Bob [Osborne] it was like a Sunday drive man, it was easy. The car did all the work and that's really cool... We've been focusing a lot on qualifying and it's cool to have a good lap like that."
Montoya improved nearly four tenths of a second from his first to his second qualifying lap and despite locking up the left front under braking for Turn 3, his lap turned out to be very fast.
"I was getting the most out of the car and just braking a little too hard when I turned in and that's it, not a big deal," said Montoya. "I smoked the tyre but it really didn't affect the lap time too much. It made the car a little tight but as long as you keep turning the wheel is fine. It's only one lap.
"I've been complaining a lot about the car all day but it's got plenty of speed."
Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger was third fastest in his Ford while Clint Bowyer, who is on the verge of securing the final spot in this year's Chase, was fourth fastest ahead of Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann. Reigning champion and three-time winner at Richmond Jimmie Johnson looked consistent in practice and qualified 11th, while points leader Kevin Harvick was only 20th.
Jeff Green was fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 16th place but five of them were left out of the field, including former Sprint Cup champion and three-time Richmond winner Terry Labonte, who was making a return to NASCAR's top level as a driver and owner alongside Bill Stavola.
Two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom showed quick progress in race trim during practice, but struggled in qualifying at the wheel of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota and will start 42nd on his oval debut.
Pos Driver Car Speed Time Gap
1. Carl Edwards Ford 127.762 21.133s
2. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 127.455 21.184s + 0.051s
3. AJ Allmendinger Ford 127.101 21.243s + 0.110s
4. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 127.077 21.247s + 0.114s
5. David Reutimann Toyota 127.017 21.257s + 0.124s
6. Joey Logano Toyota 126.975 21.264s + 0.131s
7. Paul Menard Ford 126.951 21.268s + 0.135s
8. Brad Keselowski Dodge 126.939 21.270s + 0.137s
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 126.784 21.296s + 0.163s
10. Kasey Kahne Ford 126.767 21.299s + 0.166s
11. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 126.654 21.318s + 0.185s
12. Matt Kenseth Ford 126.505 21.343s + 0.210s
13. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 126.505 21.343s + 0.210s
14. Denny Hamlin Toyota 126.470 21.349s + 0.216s
15. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 126.440 21.354s + 0.221s
16. Jeff Green Ford 126.422 21.357s + 0.224s
17. Regan Smith Chevrolet 126.410 21.359s + 0.226s
18. Casey Mears Toyota 126.369 21.366s + 0.233s
19. Mark Martin Chevrolet 126.345 21.370s + 0.237s
20. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 126.210 21.393s + 0.260s
21. Kurt Busch Dodge 126.133 21.406s + 0.273s
22. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 126.039 21.422s + 0.289s
23. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 126.039 21.422s + 0.289s
24. Greg Biffle Ford 126.027 21.424s + 0.291s
25. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 125.933 21.440s + 0.307s
26. David Ragan Ford 125.845 21.455s + 0.322s
27. Dave Blaney Chevrolet 125.827 21.458s + 0.325s
28. Landon Cassill Chevrolet 125.810 21.461s + 0.328s
29. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 125.745 21.472s + 0.339s
30. Joe Nemechek Toyota 125.716 21.477s + 0.344s
31. Scott Speed Toyota 125.687 21.482s + 0.349s
32. Kyle Busch Toyota 125.564 21.503s + 0.370s
33. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 125.523 21.510s + 0.377s
34. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 125.465 21.520s + 0.387s
35. Jason Leffler Toyota 125.331 21.543s + 0.410s
36. Elliott Sadler Ford 125.284 21.551s + 0.418s
37. Mike Bliss Toyota 125.232 21.560s + 0.427s
38. Travis Kvapil Ford 125.127 21.578s + 0.445s
39. David Gilliland Ford 125.012 21.598s + 0.465s
40. Tony Raines Ford 124.792 21.636s + 0.503s
41. Kevin Conway Toyota 123.899 21.792s + 0.659s
42. Mattias Ekstrom Toyota 123.717 21.824s + 0.691s
43. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet
Did not qualify:
Terry Labonte Chevrolet 124.971 21.605s + 0.472s
Michael McDowell Dodge 124.355 21.712s + 0.579s
Todd Bodine Toyota 124.292 21.723s + 0.590s
Scott Riggs Toyota 124.041 21.767s + 0.634s
Brian Keselowski Dodge 122.912 21.967s + 0.834s